Opinion: It’s insane to keep building huge parking decks along the light rail line


The following opinion piece is in response to a previous C5 story, “It would be insane for Charlotte to stop building parking for apartments — right now.”

Charlotte is in prime position to begin moving towards transit-oriented development. With the LYNX Blue Line at 10 years old with rapid development taking place along it, the expansion of the Blue Line expected to open within a year, and the City LYNX Gold Line growing, the view of transit-oriented development should not be it would be insane to stop building parking garages.

What we need to be asking the ultimate power brokers in our city (the developers and Charlotte City Council) is, “Why not now? And if not now, when?”

With growth projections for Charlotte reaching higher than 70% in the next 13 years, the densely-populated parts of the city will not be sustainable if parking structures continue to be built as planned. In a recent C5 column, Katie Toussaint argued that South End and Dilworth need more parking, but I think developers are actually overbuilding parking in the area.

According to current zoning code, transit-oriented developments can have up to 1.6 parking spaces per unit. When you factor in studio and one-bedroom units in those complexes, there is plenty of parking to have one space per bedroom — before even counting visitor parking spaces.

The primary result of adding parking spaces to complexes that sit next to transit stations in a densely-populated area would be more car traffic and congestion. It’s an area that cannot handle more car congestion and will lead to Charlotte ranking higher on the nation’s most-congested cities list.

This is not a sustainable model along Charlotte’s primary mass transit line. South Boulevard cannot be widened for more automobile traffic. Neither can North Davidson Street. The same goes for ancillary roads in neighborhoods along the Blue Line, like Sedgefield, Dilworth, Wilmore, Optimist Park, Villa Heights and NoDa.

Ride sharing is also not the answer to the road congestion issue. Uber and Lyft do not get cars off the roads and, if anything, adds more cars to densely-populated centers and contributes to the congestion.

For far too long, the Blue Line and the Rail Trail alongside it have been too auto-centric. The solution to make it less auto-centric, reduce congestion on nearby artery roads, and to build a sustainable future in our densely-populated areas is not to provide more parking to projects next to transit stations.

The Blue Line is an asset and it will become much more valuable when the line to UNC Charlotte is completed. We need to use that asset and get return on the money invested in it. Having the option of purchasing or leasing a parking space instead of building it into the rent will give residents financial flexibility. It will also save developers money on unbuilt parking spaces — it costs and average of $15,915 to build a parking space in Charlotte, according to The Victoria Transport Institute.

Retailers at the Bland Street Station are doing a great job focusing on customers using the Blue Line. The Bottle Cap Group/Southend Station and Futo Buta have done exactly what needs to be done at our transit centers. Both buildings face the station and welcome non-auto traffic with open arms.

Two stops down the line, Hyde Brewing will be opening at the New Bern Station and will be a true transit-oriented development with no dedicated parking spots. The development at the Pepsi site across the station from Hyde is a culprit of overbuilding parking, but plans are to have station-facing retail.

The area is changing rapidly and we need to embrace these changes, not resist them. The Blue and Gold lines are expanding and City Council just approved a plan that (with proper funding) will drastically improve the biking infrastructure in Charlotte.

Having extra money that otherwise would be spent on parking is not “insane,” neither is using the assets that our community has heavily invested in. Overbuilding parking in densely-populated areas is a financial loser and it will result in an unsustainable community as Charlotte continues to grow.

It’s time to take action and use our limited resources in a responsible manner.

Photo: Charlotte Observer file


    • There are places to park at these restaurants along the light rail. Plenty of places, in fact, which is why overbuilding with parking in the future isn’t necessary nor a good use of the land.

      And restaurants can encourage or incentivize customers to use the light rail. You can avoid traffic on South Blvd. and potential parking fees if you park at a LYNX station for free and spend $4.40 on a round-trip ticket. The money for the construction of the line and the lots came from everybody in Charlotte, not just people living along South Blvd.

  1. Why not make parking decks mixed use buildings? Build the decks and use the lower parts for retail/restaurants, etc.

    • From a streetscape perspective, that’s the best way to handle the parking, in my opinion. Solis Southline, a building about to open at South and Ideal, almost completely conceals its parking. The main parking entrance is on South, with a smaller one on Ideal, but other than that, you only see the fitness center, leasing office, residences, and retail (being advertised as 4,000 square feet for restaurants) at street level.

  2. I agree! It’s time for the city council to outright FORBID parking lots and parking decks along our rail lines! Office workers and restaurant-goers who need to drive can park at park-and-ride lots/decks out in the suburbs and ride the rest of the way in. Any businesses within a 10-minute walk of a park-and-ride lot/deck can have their customers use this communal parking that’s already ready to accept more cars. This city is finally at the point to change for the better, they just need the final push to start requiring better planning.


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